Pesticides in our Parks, Jan-March 2017

Herbicide Spraying in Glen Canyon May 2017

Someone recently sent us this picture (above) of herbicide being sprayed at Glen Canyon.

Saw a guy spraying pesticides in Glen Canyon today. I didn’t want to get close enough to read the sign because he’s spraying right now and I’m pregnant.  I’m assuming its one of the same old for the same old reasons.  It’s right near a child’s classroom and right near someone’s backyard.  Somewhat related, did you hear that a coyote in Glen Canyon was killed by rat poison?

Clicking on the picture will bring you to a very short video of the spraying.

In other news, the petition opposing pesticides finally closed with 12,113 signatures!

PESTICIDE USAGE, FIRST QUARTER 2017

We recently received and compiled the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD) pesticide usage reports for the first quarter of 2017. There’s good news and bad news.

Bad news first: The first quarter continues to be Garlon time in the Natural Areas, which comprise the areas under the Natural Resources Division of SFRPD and the SFPUC areas that are managed by the same land managers.

In 2017, they applied Garlon 25 times, up from 23 in 2016. The volume applied is nearly the same; on an “active ingredient” calculation, it’s 61.2 fluid ounces in 2017 slightly down from 61.5 fl oz in 2016. Garlon is used only against Bermuda buttercups (oxalis, sourgrass, soursob, oxalis pes caprae).

The main parks where it was applied were Twin Peaks, McLaren Park, and Mt Davidson, though they did use it at other locations too.

This is especially bad news because Garlon is one the most toxic herbicides the city is allowed to use. Ever since we’ve been following it, not only has it been designated Tier I (Most hazardous), there’s been a notation against it: HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND AN ALTERNATIVE.

Garlon is also supposed to be twenty times as toxic to women as to men. (See page 28 of this California Native Plant Society Presentation which discusses best management practices in herbicide use: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity )

Oxalis is not considered terribly invasive. Its brilliant yellow color and early spring flowering make it very visible, but it needs disturbance to spread. If it is ignored, it will over time give way to other plants. In any case, after its explosion of spring color, it dies down and other plants take over. There is considerable doubt about the effectiveness of herbicides on oxalis, because it grows from bulbils (tiny bulbs) that are well protected, and will resprout the following season.

Here’s our quick presentation about Garlon and oxalis: Garlon vs Oxalis in Ten Easy Slides. In summary: San Francisco could get rid of this very toxic “HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND ALTERNATIVE” herbicide merely by calling a truce on its war with oxalis. (Here’s a longer article, with some lovely photographs: Five Reasons why it’s okay to love oxalis and stop poisoning it )

Now for the good news:

  • SFRPD has cut back a lot on its use of Roundup (also called Aquamaster), i.e. Glyphosate. This is the chemical that the WHO declared a probable carcinogen.  In 2017, Natural Areas used it three times, twice at Twin Peaks and once at Laguna Honda.
  • The main user of Glyphosate: Golden Gate Park Nursery, which Chris Geiger (the Integrated Pest Management person at SF Environment) explained is not a public area. They used either 25 fl oz or 40 fl oz of glyphosate (active ingredient basis), depending on whether one of the entries is a duplication. We have a question in about that to SFRPD and SF Environment, and will update this when we have an answer.
  • No Tier I herbicides were used in Glen Canyon from Jan-March 2017. Though Natural Areas elsewhere were sprayed with Garlon for oxalis, none was used in Glen Canyon – where neighbors are concerned because of the many small children who play there, as well as potential water contamination.

CONCERNS

We still have concerns, though we do acknowledge the efforts of SF Environment and SFRPD to control the use of toxic herbicides. We will go into those in detail another time, but here are a few, in brief:

  • Allowing the use of Tier I herbicides even in non-public areas does not prevent them from contaminating the environment.
  • This is especially true now that San Francisco will be adding its own ground water to the public water supply. No one wants pesticides coming from our taps.
  • The Natural Areas already severely restrict access by requiring people to stay on the limited number of “designated trails” – mainly broad paths that have been improved in some cases into stairways and mini-roads. Using Tier I herbicides will give them an incentive to block off much of the park, so it is accessible only to SFRPD staff or volunteers.
  • Instead of eschewing herbicides altogether, new combinations are being considered for addition to the list of permitted pesticides.

San Francisco Forest Alliance’s stance: No Pesticides in our Parks.

We continue to work toward this goal, and support the efforts of SF Environment and thousands of people to get there.

 

 

So Much City, So Little Green

This beautiful aerial view of San Francisco, taken by Fiona Fay and used here with permission, shows just how important our urban forests are. At just 13.7% cover, San Francisco has amongst the smallest tree canopy of any major city. And yet, there are plans to cut down thousands of trees – even though we’re already behind on replacing those that die naturally.

Photo Credit: @FionaFaytv of the IRN- NutritionHub.org

It shows may of the places now vulnerable to the plans of the land managers – mostly SF Recreation and Parks’ Natural Resources Division, which uses toxic pesticides, cuts down healthy and mature trees, and limits access in the name of protecting native plants; but also UCSF, which owns most of Sutro Forest and partners with the Sutro Stewards that have the same nativist bias; and Treasure Island Development Authority, which is using a nativist plan similar to that of the Natural Resources Division.

Visit these places, make your memories and photograph their beauty. Send us pictures on Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/ForestAlliance/] or by email to SFForestNews@gmail.com – we will publish and archive them. (If you want them shared on this website, please include permission to do so.)

Photo Credit: @FionaFaytv ; Labels: SFForest

Our trees provide enormous health and environmental benefits. Especially in these difficult times, every tree counts.

Read More: Twenty Reasons Why Urban Trees are Important to Us All

Yet, our tree canopy is small, and shrinking not growing.

Graph showing urban tree canopy cover in major US cities

San Francisco Has the Least Canopy Cover of any Major US City

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Roundup, Garlon, and Pesticide-Free Parks

New evidence has emerged that Monsanto influenced the Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA) to downplay the cancer-causing risk of Roundup. This pesticide, and others that may be even more hazardous, are used in our parks and watersheds. And now, since San Francisco is adding ground water to the Hetch Hetchy water we have been getting, our water may contain traces of these hazardous chemicals.

 

MONSANTO OFFERED TO GHOST-WRITE KEY REPORT SECTIONS ON ROUNDUP

Bloomberg and other news sources show that Monsanto offered to ghost-write sections of the EPA report on glyphosate, and sought the help of an EPA official to kill the reports that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.

We reported earlier that a letter by an EPA employee Dr Marion Copley, written as she was dying, says: “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.” She also said it is an endocrine disruptor, and alleged corruption within the EPA.

A California Superior Court judge has ruled that Roundup can be added to the Prop 65 list of known carcinogens, despite Monsanto’s attempts to block such a listing. “State regulators were waiting for the formal ruling before moving forward with the warnings, said Sam Delson, a spokesman for the state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.” 

Dr Copley’s letter only used glyphosate (Roundup, Aquamaster) as an example. The letter hinted that other chemicals might have fared similarly – that is, not been properly evaluated because of corporate influence on EPA employees. We the public cannot assume that toxicology tests performed by the companies producing the pesticides or scientists they may pressure are sufficient to prove the chemicals are harmless.

ROUNDUP AND GARLON IN OUR PARKS

Roundup has been used for years by SFRPD and other city entities. Only in  2015 was it designated a Tier I (most hazardous) pesticide. We tracked its use in San Francisco’s Natural Areas from 2008 to 2016. (It’s also used in other parks, and by the PUC, but we have not compiled those data.)

In the bar-graph here, the green section represents Roundup. The Natural Resources Department (NRD) increased its use of Roundup each year from 2009 to 2013, then decreased it in 2014, slightly increased it in 2015, and now has brought it down to below 2010 levels – though not as low as in 2009 or 2010.

The orange section is Garlon, a Tier I (Most Hazardous) herbicide that’s considered even more toxic than Roundup. Garlon is also supposed to be twenty times as toxic to women as to men. (See page 28 of this California Native Plant Society Presentation which discusses best management practices in herbicide use: Law_Johnson 2014 presentation toxicity )

Nowadays, Garlon in San Francisco is used only by the Natural Resources Department against Bermuda buttercups (oxalis).

PROGRESS – AND A NEW PROBLEM ABOUT TO HAPPEN

SF Environment has responded to community concerns (including a petition opposing pesticides in schools and parks that has more than 12,000 signatures) by introducing a list of restrictions on the use of Tier I (but not Tier II) chemicals. (Their Tier system classifies all allowable pesticides as Tier III – Least Hazardous, Tier II – More Hazardous, and Tier I – Most Hazardous.)

Though we believe the restrictions do not go far enough, they are a start. SF Environment has not published the final version, but there is a current draft. We are providing our comments to the Commission for the Environment and to SF Environment in the hope that they will modify the conditions under which use of Tier I herbicides are permitted. (We’ll post about this soon.)

But – starting 2017, SF Environment is going to approve the use of something new: Milestone VM Plus. It’s a mix of Garlon and Milestone VM (aminopyralid). This combination is being approved as a Tier II herbicide. Amino-pyralid is the pesticide so persistent that it lasts for years – and if an animal eats treated vegetation, its droppings become toxic too. It was considered a Tier I pesticide until SF Environment decided to reclassify it as Tier II in 2013. It’s banned in New York and effectively in a number of other states too.

We’ve protested. Here’s our letter:

Dear Commissioners, Director Raphael, and Dr Geiger,

We are dismayed that a new triclopyr-based pesticide is being added to the 2017 pesticide list, and in combination with aminopyralid – and that too as Tier II. This is at a time when we’re working to *remove* triclopyr (as Garlon) from the list. We refer to Milestone VM Plus, which is Aminopyralid, triisopropanolamine salt, 2%; Triclopyr, triethylamine salt, 16%. It’s for injection and for tree stumps. As we understand it, this is a mixture of Garlon 3 and Milestone.

This could be disastrous. Triclopyr is one of the most toxic herbicides still on the list. And Milestone VM (Aminopyralid) is uncannily persistent – it can last for years. If vegetation treated with it is eaten by animals and excreted, the excreta still contains enough herbicide to harm plants. Until 2013, Milestone was considered a Tier I chemical for its persistence – and then changed to Tier II (possibly at the request of the Natural Resources Department, since other SFRPD departments don’t use Milestone VM.)  If Milestone VM Plus is used on trees in a forest or stand of trees, it could weaken adjacent healthy trees through the intergrafted root network, thus destabilizing groups of trees.

We urge you to delete Milestone VM Plus from your restricted list. It’s no better than using Garlon with some added Milestone. If it must be retained, please classify it as Tier I.

Respectfully,
San Francisco Forest Alliance

HERBICIDES IN OUR WATER?

This year,  San Francisco started adding well water drawn from under the city to our tap water. Roundup or Aquamaster (glyphosate) and other pesticides such as Garlon (triclopyr), Milestone (aminopyralid), and Stalker (imazapyr) – and their breakdown products, some of which may be even more toxic – could well be contaminating our water supply.

Pesticide supporters argue it doesn’t matter, because the amounts are small. But:

  • Herbicides (and other chemicals) could interact in ways that are unpredictable. No one has researched them.
  • There’s no way of knowing how much the cumulative exposure is for any individual. This is particularly a concern for children, whose low body weight and fast growth make them especially vulnerable; and for people with illnesses or chemical sensitivities.
  • Importantly, if they are endocrine disruptors – which means they act like hormones in the human body – tiny amounts can have a disproportionate impact. It’s an exception to the “dose makes the poison” saying. Here’s an article that cites references to studies showing endocrine disruption from glyphosate: Why Low Dose Pesticides are Still Hazards.

PESTICIDE FREE PARKS

We have heard some parents don’t take their children to Glen Canyon any more, owing to pesticide concerns. One of the restrictions that SF Environment will impose is no use of Tier I pesticides in areas frequented by children. (Tier II herbicides will still be allowed.)

While the San Francisco Forest Alliance asks for no pesticides in our parks (and watersheds), San Francisco could make a start by converting parks with children’s play areas to Pesticide-Free Parks. Here’s an example from Seattle.

Opponents of restricting pesticide use in this way might fear that the park looks awful, so we went and had a look. It was a sunny afternoon, and the park was beautiful.


The park was full of kids of all ages, from babies and toddlers to teenagers. One man rocked his tiny pink-clad baby daughter.  Another dad brought his small son to kick a ball around in the grass. School age kids chased each other with squirt-guns. Some families brought their dogs, who are allowed in the park. It must be a relief to know that you can safely take your family to such a park, and not encounter Roundup or Garlon, Stalker or Milestone VM.

The park has a nice playground.

It also had an organic community garden…

… complete with a green roof.

And a rain garden.

And a multilingual welcome sign.

It was a lovely example of the kind of Inclusive Environmentalism that San Francisco Forest Alliance stands for.

Garlon v. Oxalis – in 10 Easy Slides

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“It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer”

glen canyon glyphosate June 2016 - Shrubs encroaching on grassland video

Applying Glyphosate in Glen Canyon

Marion Copley was a scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency. She died of cancer in January 2014. Before she died, she sent the letter below to her former boss Jess Rowland, saying “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.”

Now,  a lawsuit by people with cancer or who lost loved ones to cancer, asks to depose Mr. Rowland. They allege that Monsanto has influenced the EPA through its ties to people there. (The Huffington Post report on that is HERE: Questions about EPA-Monsanto collusion raised in cancer lawsuits )

copley-correspondence-jess-rowland

Herbicides in San Francisco’s ‘Natural Areas’: 2016 Report

We finally received all the 2016 pesticide use reports from San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (SFRPD), including of course the Natural Resources Department (formerly the Natural Areas Program). Coincidentally, it’s oxalis season, and by the logic of the NRD – it’s Garlon time. Of which more below.

In April 2016, SF Department of the Environment rolled out its new guidelines for pesticide use. Since then, the other parks sections nearly eliminated pesticides – but not NRD. They reduced their use of Roundup quite drastically (thankfully, since it’s a probable carcinogen). But they increased their usage of Garlon and Imazapyr.

OTHER SFRPD CUT HERBICIDE USE MUCH MORE THAN NRD

San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department (ex Harding Golf Course, which is under a management contract with the PGA Tour) has all but stopped using herbicides – except for the so-called Natural Resources Department.

 

nrd-vs-sfrpd-herbicide-application-2016-smLooking at the whole of 2016, SFRPD used pesticides 159 times. Of those, 143 applications were by the NRD.

NRD used more of nearly all Tier I and Tier II herbicides. It used 48% of the total Roundup SFRPD applied; 100% of the Garlon; 100% of the Imazapyr (Stalker, Polaris); and 99% of the Milestone VM.

Excluding for Greenmatch, a herbicide that is considered organic (but still classified as Tier II), NRD used more Tier I and Tier II herbicides than the rest of SFRPD put together. (As usual, we exclude Harding Golf Course, which is under a management contract to the PGA Tour and uses pesticides to maintain tournament readiness.)

The good news is that NRD has succeeded in reducing herbicide use, mainly by cutting back sharply on Roundup. Even if not as much as other SFRPD departments, it’s progress. It is still not down to 2009  or even 2008 levels, but has reduced substantially from 2013, which was peak pesticide for NRD (then NAP).

nrd-herbicide-volume-ai-2008-2016-sm2

PUC LAND UNDER NRD HERBICIDE REGIMEN

This year, NRD also started managing – i.e. spraying with herbicides – certain parks belonging to SF PUC:

  • Lake Merced,
  • Laguna Honda, and
  • part of Twin Peaks.

Since they are following the same regimen and using NRD staff, we include the PUC data along with NRD information.

WHICH PARKS?

We thought we’d take a look at which parks they treated most often with herbicides in 2016. Bayview Hill was the clear “winner” with 34 applications. McLaren Park was hit 27 times, and Twin Peaks 25 times. Glen Canyon had 10 applications of herbicides, and Mt Davidson was herbicided 8 times.

GARLON, THE MOST TOXIC HERBICIDE PERMITTED BY SF ENVIRONMENT

To return to Garlon, the most toxic herbicide SF Environment allows for use in SFRPD. It’s classified as Tier I (Most Hazardous) and the notation on the list says: Subject to “Limitations on most restricted
herbicides”. Use only for targeted treatments of high profile or highly invasive exotics via dabbing or injection. May use for targeted spraying only when dabbing or injection are not feasible.
HIGH PRIORITY TO FIND ALTERNATIVE

It’s been “High Priority to Find Alternative” in all the years we’ve been studying this issue. Here’s the solution: Stop obsessing over oxalis.

The only current use for Garlon in SFRPD is battling oxalis in “Natural Areas.” It’s been used 23 times in 2016 by NRD – and zero times by all the other departments.

The obsession with oxalis makes no logical sense. Our article Five Reasons it’s Okay to Love Oxalis and Stop Poisoning it points out that:

Honeybee in oxalis flower

Honeybee in oxalis flower

1) It’s already part of the ecological food web in our city, providing nectar to honey-bees, bumblebees, butterflies and other pollinators. Ironically, the pollination doesn’t benefit the oxalis, which doesn’t set seed in San Francisco.

2) It’s good for wildlife, providing food for gophers, a foundation species that in turn feed predators from hawks and owls and herons to coyotes and foxes.

3) The myth is that oxalis leaves the ground bare after it dies down in summer. Actually, it enriches the soil with phosphorus, which benefits the grasslands in which it grows.

4) Oxalis has little impact on native plants. NRD argues that oxalis takes over grasslands and destroys them, particularly the native grasses. However, grasslands in most of California including San Francisco are dominated non-native grasses. The change occurred over 100 years ago, when these grasses were planted for pasture. So the grassland that NAP is defending with herbicides are primarily non-native anyway.

According to a study: “Oxalis is a poor competitor. This is consistent with the preferential distribution of Oxalis in disturbed areas such as ruderal habitats, and might explain its low influence on the cover of native species in invaded sites.
The California Invasive Plant Council rates its invasiveness as “moderate,” considering it as somewhat invasive in sand dunes and less so in coastal bluff areas.
oxalis and california poppies sm
In San Francisco, every place where oxalis grows is already a disturbed environment, a mix of non-native grasses and plants with native plants (some of which have been artificially planted).  Here,  oxalis appears to grow happily with other plants – including, for instance, the native California poppy in the picture above.

5) Kids love it, and it’s edible. Parents know that children will often nibble on “sourgrass” – indeed, so do parents sometimes! Adding toxic herbicides is a poor idea, especially since it is usually applied during the flowering season.

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons - Flickr)

Photo credit: Badjonni (Creative Commons – Flickr)

So, to summarize:

“There’s no sign that oxalis has a negative impact on wildlife, and plenty of evidence it’s already part of the ecological food web of our city.  The evidence also suggests it’s not having a negative effect on other plants in San Francisco either. Lots of people find this flower attractive; one writer described it as the city smiling with Bermuda buttercups.

In any case, even Doug Johnson of the California Invasive Plant Council doesn’t think it’s worth attacking at a landscape level: the payoff isn’t worth the expense. Removing it from the hundreds of acres in Natural Areas isn’t as simple as eradicating it from a small yard where it’s clashing with the garden design. It requires a lot of work, a lot of powerful herbicides, a multi-year effort – and for what?

The justification for using strong pesticides like Garlon to control it is weak. We call on NAP to stop using Tier I and Tier II herbicides altogether.”

NEW SURFACTANT UNDER-STUDIED

NRD has been trying to reduce the amount of Garlon in each application used by changing to a new surfactant for Garlon: CMR Silicone Surfactant. (A surfactant is a chemical used with a pesticide to make it spread better.)

This is also a dubious chemical.A 2016 NIH paper, Toxicological Risks of Agrochemical Spray Adjuvants: Organosilicone Surfactants May Not Be Safe, suggests that these surfactants have a deleterious effect on bees (which we know visit oxalis), and point out that they are under-regulated:

“Agrochemical risk assessment that takes into account only pesticide active ingredients without the spray adjuvants commonly used in their application will miss important toxicity outcomes detrimental to non-target species, including humans.”

(You can download the whole paper as a PDF here: fpubh-04-00092

Citation:
Mullin CA, Fine JD, Reynolds RD and Frazier MT (2016)

Toxicological Risks of Agrochemical Spray Adjuvants: Organosilicone Surfactants May Not Be Safe.
Front. Public Health 4:92.
doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2016.00092

Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks!  Feb 28, 2017

rally-and-hearing-feb-2017

Rally for Trees & Against Pesticides in Our Parks!

Join Our City and San Francisco Forest Alliance to demand that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors vote to reject the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that allows the Recreation and Park Department to cut down over 18,000 trees and spray toxic herbicides to ‘manage’ our public parks.

After the rally we will assemble in the City Hall Board of Supervisors chamber, room 250, to speak in favor of the appeal to block Rec & Park’s plan.

Rally
WHEN:       1:00 pm Tuesday February 28th
WHERE:     SF Civic Center Plaza (across from City Hall, Polk St. steps

Hearing
WHEN:       3:00 pm Tuesday February 28th
WHERE:     Board of Supervisors Chamber, SF City Hall, Room 250
(come early to get a seat)

Map – http://tinyurl.com/SFCityHall-Plaza-BART
Directions – http://sfgov.org/cityhall/directions-city-hall

More information: https://sfforest.org and https://sfforest.org/blog-updates/

See you at City Hall!

San Francisco Forest Alliance

Public opinion does make a difference!

Thank you for your support

The San Francisco Forest Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)4 environmental organization working to protect urban forests, reduce pesticide use, and preserve access to our parks.